(5 minute read)

A friend of mine recently became one of the thousands of young people to succumb to the huge pressures and demands of teaching and left at the end of her first year inside the classroom. (I’m resisting the urge to vent about the education system as a whole here and trying to keep us on the path of employer branding). That meant she was back on the job trail, seeking a role that involved helping young people in some capacity.

Her employer of choice was a well-known brand in the sector and a vacancy popped up that seemed a good fit. Initially excited, she pored over the application for hours and was delighted to be told a couple of weeks after submitting that she was invited to an interview, which included a time, date and directions. On the day, she was directed to an interview room where the manager cleared away several used mugs and excused the mess by stating that they’d had so many candidates in that day that they hadn’t had a chance to properly clean up. She was impatiently interrogated for twenty minutes and left feeling as if her presence had been an inconvenience, coming at the end of a day that had contained ‘so many’ interviews, and having been so briskly ushered in and hurried out. In her mind, she had been given little chance to convey her suitability for the role and was convinced she stood no chance of landing the job. Two days later she was offered the role.

Meanwhile, to keep her options open while she waited for news of her application status, another contender entered the running - a small company she had never heard of before that she stumbled upon on social media. My friend found one of their senior operations managers on LinkedIn and sent her a speculative message. There were no roles advertised on the company’s website, but the operations manager agreed to speak to her about what they do and advised that she’d keep her in mind if anything came up. Two weeks later, she called to say that a role had come up and she talked her through the job specification. My friend applied and was invited in for an interview, subsequently being sent a full task brief with details of locations, timings, who she would meet, and what she was expected to prepare, and all her questions were answered promptly. She attended a forty-five minute interview, a fifteen minute presentation, and a fifteen minute desk-based task. She was thanked for coming in, received an email a day later advising that she would hear within the week, and was messaged personally by the operations manager. A day after being offered the position with the larger, more recognisable company, she was offered the role with the smaller organisation.

The tables had been turned. The more renowned, prestigious brand that had seduced her because of their standing in the sector had been usurped by a company she had never heard of. All because one experience made her feel like an afterthought, and the other made her feel special.

Now, I’m not suggesting it’s feasible for larger organisations to offer quite the level of TLC and personal touch the small company did, but the example demonstrates the value of an outstanding candidate experience and the influence it can have in the consideration process.

It was after reading an article by Tom Laine in Recruiting Daily in which he seeks to define the most reliable employer brand metrics that I matched my friend’s recent experience to his observations. In it, Laine argues that candidates should be surveyed for what drew them to the employer, their opinions on the hiring process and how it affected their perceptions, how the application and feedback process compares with other companies, what they would change about it and whether it met their expectations.

Clearly, there are some hurdles in obtaining that data. Rejected candidates are not likely to trip over themselves to answer a survey on an experience that has proved unfruitful, while interviewees and new starters are conversely likely to be more effusive as it may help their cause, either to get the job or impress new colleagues. Barriers aside, it’s something that needs to be addressed because it’s a metric that may yield a lot more insight than you thought it could. Anonymous surveys or integrating a questionnaire into the onboarding process solely through HR are a couple of ways that might help produce candid responses.

We’re constantly told that candidates are consumers and they should be treated as such. When you see how powerful candidate engagement can be pre and post application in influencing career decisions and employer perceptions, as per the example of my friend, it would be folly to ignore the small things that can make such a big impact. That might be achieved through automated relevant content distribution to keep applicants warm prior to interview, for instance. Things like your company’s latest CSR efforts, a blog from one of your thought leaders, or, why not ask your employees to volunteer as applicant buddies? Give candidates access to your workforce so they can allay fears or concerns and satisfy their curiosity with their potential colleagues – voices they are much more likely to trust and relate to than a faceless corporate email account. Where resource allows, this may even stretch to a personal call from a recruiter or hiring manager to see if the candidate has any questions about interview briefs or directions. It doesn’t matter if you’ve answered every question they could possibly have already; it’s the personal touch that counts because it tells the candidate ‘you’re special, you’re not just a statistic on a spreadsheet’.

Don’t lean on your brand clout, like my friend’s employer of choice did. It only goes so far. If the reality doesn’t match the perception, you’ll soon be gazumped by those who bother to make those small touches.

If you want to talk about your candidate experience or anything else related to employer branding or talent attraction, please get in touch: ross.davies@aia.co.uk

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

European Marketing Manager

Ross manages TMP Worldwide’s marketing efforts across Europe. He is responsible for all online and offline activity in the UK, France and Germany, including devising the agency’s content and social strategies. He manages all other online properties and is responsible for analysing performance across all channels, enhancing the agency’s offering accordingly.